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SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So this is a very good occasion, but it’s a particularly good occasion because we greatly value Ghana’s leadership and your leadership in West Africa, the important efforts on regional security.  We’re strong partners, including on the UN Security Council, which we greatly value, partners for democracy and security in West Africa, and we greatly appreciate the peacekeeping contributions that Ghana makes, but also just more broadly your own leadership for peace, for security, for democracy.  Many, many challenges, but we’re grateful to actually be facing them together and really pleased to have you here this week for the summit.  So thank you, Mr. President.  Appreciate the time.

PRESIDENT AKUFO-ADDO:  So Mr. Secretary, thank you very much.  I want to thank the American Government for the invitation to participate in this summit.  I think it’s a summit that’s been long overdue.  I believe it’s the second – the last time was, what, over 10 years ago.  Perhaps we should be doing it more, but it’s good that it has happened.  It gives us an opportunity to talk about many common threats, challenges that we have which you’ve identified, and particularly for us to be able to put into relief where we are.  Yesterday I had an extremely – I was part of an extremely useful meeting with the people from the Congress to come and talk about security matters.  Believe that the – madam, you were there, you were part of the meeting, and it’s significant for us.

And I think that beyond everything, there is a matter that I want to urge upon you.  Today, Russian mercenaries are on our northern border.  Burkina Faso has now entered into an arrangement to go along with Mali in employing the Wagner forces there.  I believe a mine in southern Burkina has been allocated to them as a form of payment for their services.  Prime minister of Burkina Faso in the last 10 days has been in Moscow.  And to have them operating on our northern border is particularly distressing for us in Ghana.

Apart from not accepting the idea of great powers once again making Africa their theater of operation, we have a particular position that you know about over the Ukraine war, where we have been very, very vocal and up front about condemning the invasion of Russia – by Russia.  And therefore, there now to have this group in our borders is a matter of some considerable disquiet and concern for us.  We’d really like to have a privileged opportunity to talk about its implications and what we believe ought to be the case.

This is what took place with the discussion in the Congress yesterday, which I found very fruitful.  And I would like to – the themes of that discussion should be the themes that we should continue to address: to what extent we can have you as a partner in confronting these threats.  It’s very important that ECOWAS and the West African area remains a democratic space.  It’s the reason for the actions we took over the coup d’etats in Burkina Faso, in Mali, and in Guinea.  ECOWAS has been very consistent in refusing to deal with these governments because of the undemocratic nature of their accession to power.

The commitment to democratic values and institutions is a high priority for our states.  We in Ghana have been through all kinds of arrangements, governance arrangements, in the past – one-party state, all kinds of experiments have taken place.  And our people are now very clear in their mind.  They want to go down the avenue of democratic engagement, and that is why the last 30 years of the Fourth Republic have been the most stable in our country’s history.  We want to do everything to preserve that, but there are enemies of democracy who are working hard in West Africa today.  And therefore it’s important that we bring that matter to your notice and see to what extent we can engage you as a reliable partner in the pushback of those forces.

There are other areas, of course, of great significance too – the cooperation for economic growth and – for the development and for the making of prosperity for our people, which is to some extent part and parcel of the same fight.  If the young people have things to do, they’re not going to be recruits for terrorist forces.  So all of that is part and parcel, but specifically, what we can do about the terrorist threat in West Africa is now the major security concern of all our states, especially the coastal states that, up till now, till the last six months, have been relatively free of this threat.  But now on all our common borders – Benin, Togo, Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire – are these forces that are operating there.  We have to find a way to be able to respond and respond effectively to protect our populations (inaudible).

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you, everyone.

U.S. Department of State

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